Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.L.A.

Degree Name

Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amy Rust, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Andrew Berish, Ph.D.

Keywords

1980s Cinema, Farm Crisis, Gendered Violence, Neoliberalism, Reaganism

Abstract

Perhaps, under the consciousness of today, “neoliberalism” has defined our world during the previous and current centuries more than any other socioeconomic system. But the evolution of this ideology, which initially aimed to enhance, or rather, reinvent capitalism and individual freedom, has, in essence, induced an unrecognized problem. I argue that neoliberalism is the catalyst for much of the hostility in this globalized society where tensions and poverty are casualties of individual and corporate prosperity. Because of this revelation, I argue that neoliberalism inadvertently instills violence that is both unseen and gendered. In order to formulate my argument, I introduce a historical chronology to the ideological origins of neoliberalism and how it manifested its way to its socioeconomic prominence. I then concentrate my attention to neoconservatism, most notably, Reaganism, with the year 1984, which I feel is the official christening of neoliberalism. From that year, I bring forth, three films about the crisis of farming in the 20th century, Country, Places in the Heart, and The River. Through these “farm crisis films,”which centers their themes around pastoral virtues, I argue that the violence conveyed in these films critiques neoliberalism. On the surface, these films demonstrate violence through an invisible and unrecognizable antagonist. But at the heart of this violence is a gendered angle that has much more to do with neoliberalism than with feminist debates. The gendered violence of neoliberalism is, in actuality, linked to the characters’ struggle to maintain some sense of autonomy, but this possibility is always uncertain because of their failure to recognize their inevitable interdependencies.

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